Some cane growers are hoping the possibility of new laws allowing medicinal cannabis to be legally cultivated and manufactured could improve soil health and boost profitability.
State Cabinet will consider draft legislation to provide therapeutic marijuana to Queensland patients, and some Mackay cane growers have shown interest in getting an industry up and running in the tropical north.
Mackay cane grower Joe Muscat has trialled the hemp variety used for medicinal cannabis as a rotational crop beside his cane since 2002.
He said there were both economic and soil-health benefits gained from medicinal cannabis, but there were hurdles to overcome to establish a sustainable industry.
Medicinal marijuana, is derived from the extremely versatile cannabis or hemp species and different varieties of hemp have been used to produce fibre for clothes and paper, food, medicines and hallucinogenic drugs.
Mackay cane grower Joe Muscat said the legalisation of medicinal hemp opens up new opportunities but he would like to see other markets as well.
“It has got a multitude of uses, whether you are talking about building materials, car components [or] as a food,” he said.
“I read articles that documented something like 20,000 uses for a fibre plant, so there is just about nothing that it cannot do but at the end of the day you have got to have something that the market is prepared to buy and want.”
However, he said if there was money to fund research and development projects to get a medicinal cannabis market off the ground, there would be plenty of potential, especially around the tropical north.
Mr Muscat found the humid conditions of the Mackay region provided the right conditions to grow hemp crops.
Marijuana crops could improve soil health
For fellow Mackay cane grower Simon Mattsson, the hemp variety used to grow medicinal cannabis could provide soil-health benefits too.
Mr Mattsson, a Nuffield Scholar, has spent years studying plant diversity, particularly in sugar cane crops.
He said soil throughout the Mackay region suffered from compaction issues and a range of other problems.
“The variety that I would choose to grow initially probably would not be something that would be targeted specifically at the medicinal side of it,” Mr Mattsson said.
“Because it [hemp] is an entirely different root system, an entirely different plant to sugar cane, it adds to diversity.
“In my Nuffield travels, plant diversity has come up as being one of those things that is the absolute key to a healthy soil system.”
Source – ABC